Eccentric Glamour: Big Color, Bold Textiles, Playful Patterns and Cutting Instinct
Renowned British Designer Matthew Williamson
Follow @matthewwilliamson on Instagram for more of his style, interior tricks and tips
You’ve accomplished so much and become a design icon. What is it now that you crave? What do you need now to feel fulfilled?
I’ve chosen recently to live in Spain most of the year and have started to work less in fashion now and more in interiors and on projects I’m drawn to. It’s important for me to be creative but to do so in an environment less frenetic than London and an industry less relentless than fashion. It’s a big change of pace and a new challenge, but I’m loving this next chapter already.
As an artist, what was a lesson that really impacted you?
Stay true to yourself. Be as unique as you can so you are offering something fresh. Be confident and believe in your vision; if you do, no doubt others will, too.
There’s not just a fun, eccentric modern flair to your work, but it is also emotional and passionate. It pushes one to feel more. What is your creation/design experience like?
I’m definitely a people-pleaser type of person, and I derive such pleasure out of someone enjoying my work. My main motivation has ultimately always been to create something others will enjoy and love. I bring whimsy, pattern and color to everything I do in the hope that it will raise a smile or two and lift the spirits.
What was it that pushed you not to hold back and to do it so differently?
I simply think I’ve always been clear in what I want to do and what I like and don’t like; this has helped me to define my style over the years, and I’ve been lucky that others have liked it, too. I’m not one for blending in; I prefer to make a statement but always try to keep it as chic as possible.
Where do you pull from that inspires you to create?
Inspiration tends to come from far and wide. I travel extensively and find inspiration in countries which, for me, have an exotic quality and, in particular, countries which are culturally rich and have wonderful artisanal crafts. Countries such as India, Mexico and Morocco are an endless source of inspiration for me. Nature also plays an important role in my DNA, as I often reference elements and motifs from dragonflies to butterflies, flora and fauna.
Is there a quote, idea or philosophy that has made a big impact on you and how you choose to live?
My internal mantra when designing spaces is “rustic decadence.” I try to make sure every room I do has this balance of both elements in order to create harmony and the perfect scheme. I also believe that trends can sometimes be disorienting, and it’s good to make your own statement and work out what it is that you love. Personal instinct and confidence are valuable qualities to have when designing.
The biggest mistake you see people make when creating/designing their home?
Sticking too rigidly to a theme can look a little flat. I’m a big believer in mixing things up. Items from different eras tend to show flair. I also love to mix in vintage and modern pieces as this also reflects more personalized character.
What are some of your favorite pieces in your home?
I love my ostrich feather lamp from A Modern Grand Tour — it’s decadent, whimsical, and it always creates a talking point. My gold parrot print wallpaper in my lounge is also a favorite — I’ve been designing wallpapers now for five years with Osborne and Little, as I love how a room can be instantly transformed and character added so easily. My wall of notes and cards from friends behind my desk is also very personal and a favorite spot.
What do you need to create?
Instinct and confidence.
How do you find your center in the middle of chaos or creating?
Creating can more often than not be a complex layering of ideas and processes. It’s a more free-flowing and less structured process than most desk-based jobs. I find a mood board at the start of any design job can really help you to keep focused on exactly what it is you are aiming to achieve. Get your mood board right, and then you simply need to stick to it and follow it through.
How do you ground yourself? Any practices? Any design tips for a calm space?
To create a calming space, I always start with a green tone for the walls. A soft eau de nil which has a soft grey hue works well. I would then introduce lots of plants and natural materials and textures such as wood and linens. Candles are super calming and, of course, a good clear-out so your space doesn’t feel too cluttered is a good way to create the base for a calming little sanctuary. Treat the room like an envelope — get the walls and floor right first, and then you can have more fun adding the personality throughout the space with accessories — like writing your own letter to go inside the envelope.
As an artist, what is one of the things you feel most vulnerable about?
I guess when designing commercially for someone else, it’s always on my mind to please the client, as style can be so subjective. My aim is always to stay true to my personal style but ensure the client’s needs and tastes are met and that they love the space.
What drives you to be so prolific?
Most artists and designers I know are perfectionists, and I’m no different. Each project I work on I put my heart and soul into and strive for it to be the best it possibly can be. I’m always looking to make my latest project better than the last.
Why is color so important?
Color for me can be mood-changing in lots of ways. It can really influence the way you feel, so I like to spend time and get it right in the home and create rooms which will suit the function of the room but also create a certain atmosphere. Generally speaking, I like to work with a cool, calming palette most of the time, favoring soft, calming green tones as a backdrop. Warmer contrasting tones can then easily be added to give a burst of interest and focal points.
ORIGIN Rapid Fire
1. Your favorite color or palette?
Neon pink and eau de nil.
2. What sign are you?
Libra/Scorpio — on the cusp.
3. Spirit Animal?
I hope it’s a peacock.
4. Fav era for design?
5. Fav Flowers?
6. Essential Design Element?
7. What can’t you live without?
A black coffee each morning.
8. A fav book?
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
9. Three of your fav cities/ towns?
Barcelona; Portland, Oregon; and Portofino, Italy.
10. What the world needs more of?
Where do you go to replenish your spirit?
I live on the coastline in Mallorca, Spain, so the perfect tonic for me is a walk under the pine trees on a blue-sky day with my little dog, Mr. Plum.
If you had to do a room in one color, what would it be?
Eau de nil. I love this chic, soft, calming green named after the color of the water of the river Nile in Egypt.
A truth you know for sure?
Life is what you make of it.
We are color-lovers. Are there any fun guidelines/ideas you have for mixing textures, colors, eras?
I would always mix warm and cool tones with a scheme. A really good tip if you are afraid of color is to download a color wheel. Simply place a measuring stick across the circular wheel, and it will tell you the perfect colors to use to give you a complementary contrast. Examples of this would be lavender with lemon, soft green with pink, etc. It’s foolproof and never fails to work.
Do you have any regrets?
No time for regrets — onwards and upwards, as my dad often says.
THINGS YOU ALWAYS NEED for a DINNER PARTY
1. Great mix of people — ideally a couple who haven’t met each other.
2. Free-flowing drinks and ideally a little minibar.
3. I like to create a playlist for cocktails, dinner and dancing.
4. Personal touches — add a novelty placement that guests can talk about and maybe take home with them.
5. Flowers and candles never fail to set the mood. I’d take flowers from my garden and plain ivory pillar candles en masse as they are affordable and guests will notice the impact and personal touch.
5 of the MOST IMPORTANT ACCESSORIES/ITEMS to MAKE YOUR SPACE COME ALIVE
1. Flowers from the garden are always my go-to solution.
2. Music is also important to me in the home.
3. I’m launching my own line of candles this year that will instantly add character and wonderful scents for the home. The project has been a labor of love, and I can’t wait to see them in stores soon.
4. Lighting is a great way to set a mood. I try to have at least four lamps in any room.
5. Framed photos and wall art are a great way to add interest that is totally unique to you.